June 5, 2013
Fair Haven United Methodist Church:
Beaten but not defeated
By IAN BISANTZ
Haven United Methodist Church in Rodanthe is just one of the homes,
businesses, and landmarks destroyed by the Outer Banks’ merciless
weather these past two years.
Fair Haven has taken its fair
share of beatings over time from hurricanes and northeasters, but
Hurricane Irene delivered a punch to the little church that has left it
struggling to recover.
Originally built in 1948, Fair Haven has
been a place in the community for locals and tourists alike to
congregate and worship. It was not until 1970 that the church was even
renovated and that was simply an addition of bricks to the framework.
Hurricane Irene came onshore south of Cape Lookout on Aug. 27, 2011 and
moved up the sounds, it sent a storm surge of historic proportions over
the tri-villages of Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo. The wall of water
was reported to be up to 10 feet in some areas and inundated buildings
that had never had flooding before – or that had seen only minor
One of those buildings was Fair Haven, which sat
smack on the ground and didn’t have a chance of escaping to the
Water levels reached up to 5 feet inside
of the church, destroying everything from pews to the organ and piano.
The floors were ruined and the outside of the church was a complete
mess. An area that took a massive hit was the church’s foundation. With
no ground clearance, the unforgivable Atlantic soaked into the
undercarriage of the church, causing it to rot and become weak.
Haven members found themselves in the middle of the massive mess in the
tri-villages. The church was destroyed, and so were the homes of
many of the members.
When it came to rebuilding, Ken Wenberg, chairperson of the Church Council said, “We were in line with everybody else.”
knew that their only viable option was to file insurance claims through
FEMA and to start work on the damaged church as soon as possible. What
Fair Haven members didn’t know is that they wouldn’t receive an
insurance check for the next nine months, which would, in turn, cause
the church to sit, mold, soak, and rot in the scorching spring and
summer months to come.
After a long wait, Fair Haven was
reimbursed a mere $248,000, though the insurance policy had been for
$600,000. The insurance money received from FEMA would barely cover the
initial repair costs for the church. Such repairs included raising the
church and brick removal to begin new construction and development.
fair number of volunteers were in the area after the storm to help with
rebuilding, but by the time Fair Haven received its insurance money,
most were gone. The church simply couldn’t attract the volunteers
because the hurricane was “old” news and was followed a little more
than a year later by the devastating Superstorm Sandy.
if Fair Haven could have received volunteer workers, the church would
have had nowhere to house them. The struggle continued and wouldn’t
Just 17 miles down the road is St. Johns United
Methodist church in the village of Avon. That church was also severely
damaged from the storm surge from Hurricane Irene. However, St. Johns
was able to receive the insurance money quicker and the damage was not
as extensive as it was at Fair Haven. With such a fast turnaround and
manageable damage, St. Johns was able to receive the volunteer help the
church needed. With that momentum, the Avon church was able to able to
raise the building and complete work on the repairs by about Easter of
Even with such vast devastation and tough luck, Fair Haven was not ready to give up.
Jim Bliss stated that, “We still have to keep the church running. We
have to pay the bills, pay for our expenses, and we are still paying
our apportionments to the United Methodist Conference.”
Haven was even recognized for being in the top five churches in the
district in donations in proportion to its membership. Larry
Ogden, the chairman of the Finance Committee notes, “We are still
paying our fair share, no matter the hard work or cost.”
Jim Bliss realizes that people everywhere are hurting and that members
are doing what they can. He mentioned that without the community, the
church would be nothing. Pastor Bliss went on to say, “Even with the
continuing efforts from people around the island and Dare County, the
people couldn’t be any better. They have bent over backwards for us.”
still short about $200,000, Fair Haven will continue to push and move
forward to complete the new church. Even though a lot of money is still
needed to finish the job, the church understands and realizes that
everyone is doing what they can and that all who have helped will be
Future fundraising plans are in the making. Past
fried chicken and hot dog fundraisers were a great hit. Look for
possible quilt sales, yard sales, spaghetti dinners, and even another
fried chicken fundraiser in order to help in the goal of $200,000.
The Fair Haven United Methodist Church, as always, welcomes tourists and locals to all events and services.
the church is in the process of rebuilding and reopening, services are
being held at the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building every Sunday
at 9:30 a.m. If you are interested in participating or helping out the
Fair Haven United Methodist Church, don’t hesitate to contact the
church by phone at 252- 987-1069 or by e-mail at [email protected].
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